What do polar bears look like



What do polar bears look like?

Polar bears are predators and belong to the great bear family. Along with the Kodiak bears in Alaska, they are the largest land predators. On average, the males are 240 to 270 centimeters long, about 160 centimeters high and weigh 400 to 500 kilograms.

Males erect on their hind legs measure up to three meters.

In the Siberian Arctic, some males get even bigger because they eat a particularly thick layer of fat. The females are always smaller than the males.

Polar bears have the typical physique of a bear. However, their bodies are longer than that of their closest relatives, the brown bears.

The shoulders are lower than the back of the body, the neck is relatively long and thin, and the head is quite small in relation to the body.

The small, round ears are typical. The feet are long and wide and have thick, short, black claws. They are webbed between their toes.

The dense fur of the polar bears is yellowish white in color; in winter it is lighter than in summer.

The soles of the feet are also covered with hair, only the balls of the feet do not wear fur. The black eyes and the black nose stand out clearly from the white head.

Where do polar bears live?

Polar bears are only found in the northern hemisphere. They are at home there in the arctic regions of Europe, Asia and North America, so they come from Siberia and Spitsbergen to Alaska and the Canadian Arctic to Greenland.

In the Arctic, polar bears are mainly found in the southern part of the drift ice area, on the islands and on the shores of the Arctic Ocean. There, the wind and ocean currents ensure that there are always enough open water holes in the ice for the polar bears to hunt.

In winter the bears move further south. Pregnant females spend the winter in snow caves, the males also move around in winter and only dig into a snow cave for some time when it is extremely cold. But they don't hibernate.

What species are polar bears related to?

The closest relative of the polar bear is the brown bear.

How old do polar bears get?

In nature, polar bears live on average 20 years old.


How do polar bears live?

The thick fur of the polar bears works like a thermal jacket: the hair, which is up to 15 centimeters long, is hollow, creating a cushion of air that protects the animals from the cold.

And because the skin under the fur is black in color, it can store the sunlight that passes through the hollow hair to the skin as heat.

A layer of fat several centimeters thick also helps ensure that the polar bears do not get cold even in the iciest storm.

Thanks to their small ears and the hairy soles of their feet, they also hardly lose any body heat.

The fur on their feet and webbed feet enable polar bears to walk on the snow as if they were wearing snowshoes without sinking in.

The only hairless areas - apart from the nose - are the balls of the soles of the feet. They are also black: the animals can use them to store heat particularly well, but they can also give it off if it gets too warm.

Polar bears cannot see well, but they can smell very well. Their keen sense of smell helps them perceive prey from a great distance.

For most of the year, polar bears live solitary. They have large territories that they do not mark and hardly defend.

If there is enough prey, they will also accept conspecifics in their vicinity.

In the country, they can walk a long way and go up to 40 kilometers per hour. And they can jump over crevices up to five meters wide.

Polar bears are very good swimmers and cover long distances in the water from island to island or from the drift ice areas to the mainland border. You can dive for up to two minutes.

Because the water runs off their fur very quickly, they hardly lose any body heat even after a swim in the sea.

Friends and enemies of the polar bear

Adult polar bears are so big and strong that they have next to no natural predators.

However, young polar bears repeatedly fall prey to adult male polar bears.

The greatest enemy of polar bears is humans. The large predators have always been hunted for their fur.

How do polar bears reproduce?

The polar bear mating season extends from April to June. Only in this phase do males and females come together for a short time. The males use their fine noses to track down the tracks of female bears, and there is often fierce fighting between males fighting over a female. After mating, the bear and she-bear go their separate ways.

The pregnant females dig a snow cave from several chambers in October or November. The females stay in this cave all winter.

Because they do not hunt during this time, they have to live on the fat deposits that they have previously eaten.

After about eight months of gestation, the bear gives birth to her cubs in this cave, usually two cubs. At birth, babies are only 20 to 30 centimeters tall and weigh 600 to 700 grams.

They are still blind and deaf, have very little hair and are therefore completely dependent on their mother's care.

They stay in the cave until next spring, are suckled by the mother and grow up quickly. In March or April they leave their hiding place with their mother and hike to the sea.

How do polar bears hunt?

Due to their yellowish-white fur, polar bears are perfectly camouflaged in their habitat and are therefore very successful hunters. When hunting, polar bears tend to lurk around seals' breathing holes for a long time. There the prey repeatedly stretch their heads out of the water to take a breath. The lurking polar bear then grabs the animals with its huge paws and pulls them onto the ice.

Sometimes polar bears slowly push themselves up to seals that are basking on the ice on their stomachs and kill them with one swipe of the paw.

Thanks to their fine sense of smell, they can also track down the snow caves of the female seals where they give birth to their young. The bears then let themselves fall onto the cave with all their weight on their front body, push it in and prey on the seals.


What do polar bears eat?

Unlike most other bears, polar bears are almost pure carnivores. They mainly prey on ringed seals, bearded seals and other seal species. Sometimes they also hunt fish, small beluga whales or small walruses. They mainly eat the skin, bacon and intestines of their prey.

When prey is scarce, they also attack small mammals, birds, carrion and sometimes plants.

Because polar bears cannot prey every day, they are able to eat very large quantities at once. After that, they can starve for weeks or even months.

Polar bear keeping

Around 400 polar bears live in zoos around the world.